Home World Pope Francis’ praise of Genghis Khan evokes medieval charm

Pope Francis’ praise of Genghis Khan evokes medieval charm

Pope Francis’ praise of Genghis Khan evokes medieval charm

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First, Pope Francis sparked a backlash when he celebrated empire. On a visit to St. Petersburg last week, he extolled the spiritual legacy of the Russian Empire to a domestic audience, to the ire of onlookers elsewhere. “You are the heirs of Great Russia, the Great Russia of saints and kings, the Great Russia of Peter the Great and Catherine II, that great and cultured Russian Empire, with so much culture and so much humanity,” Francis said. Before concluding: “You are the heirs of the great Mother Russia. Pregnancy. …Thank you for your way of being and for being Russian.

Panicked Ukrainian officials noted that nostalgia for Russia’s imperial past was at the heart of the Kremlin’s conquest of their country. The Vatican spokesman had to clarify that Francis, emphatically opposed to the war, “only intended to encourage young people to preserve and enhance all that is positive in the great Russian cultural and spirituality, and certainly not to glorify imperialism”. Logic and government figures.

However, the pope himself was not so polite. A few days later, on a historic trip to Mongolia, he invoked homage to the medieval empire forged by the great Mongol leader Genghis Khan, whose armies and the armies of his descendants made their way from the steppes of Central Asia to the river valleys of Central Europe. . But rather than bring up the bloodstained history of conquest, Francis pointed to a unifying legacy of religious tolerance.

“The fact that the Empire has managed to embrace such distant and diverse lands over the centuries testifies to the remarkable ability of your ancestors to recognize the distinct qualities of the peoples within their vast lands and put those qualities at the service of common development,” Francis said during a meeting at the State Palace in the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.

And the Pope said: On that date, there is a “model” that we must evoke in our present: “May heaven grant today, on this earth devastated by countless conflicts, that there be a renewal, respecting international laws, of the case of the United Nations.” What was once Pax MongolianThis is the absence of conflicts.”

The reaction to these statements was more muted. Mongolia, an overwhelmingly Buddhist country, was an odd choice for Francis’ 43rd Apostolic Journey. The pope used to venture further afield than his predecessors, but here is a country of fewer than 1,500 Roman Catholics and a deep atheistic tradition inspired by the Soviets. Francis used his relative proximity to China to wish the “noble” Chinese people well, urging Chinese Catholics to be “good citizens” — not to mention Beijing’s intense crackdown on the country’s religious communities, especially Muslims and Christians.

The Mongolian sojourn was a pleasant quirk: a delegation of Vatican cardinals and bishops found themselves in a fertile valley for a local festival of gladiators, archery feats, and ballad singing. In the capital, the Pope has anointed a troupe of Mongolian knights in medieval armour.

But the pope’s evocation of Mongolia’s honorable past — where Genghis Khan remains a national symbol in the country of 3.4 million people — wasn’t just a flight of his imagination. As Vatican expert John Allen Jr. writes, the Pope’s journey was one that “took almost 800 years.”

In 1246, the Vatican envoy Giovanni da Pian del Carpin made his way into the imperial camp of Guyuk Khan, grandson of Genghis, with two letters from Pope Innocent IV urging the Mongols to stop their attacks on the lands of Christendom and asking Guyuk to convert from Christianity. to Christianity for his salvation. Guyock sent a confused reply, written in Persian, inviting the pope to come instead to his court and pay homage to the ruler, on whose side God was evidently.

And the emperor wrote: “By the power of God, all empires have been given to us from sunrise to sunset, and we own them.” On his visit last week, Francis presented Mongolian officials with what he described as an “authenticated copy” of that 13th-century letter.

For the Vatican and most of medieval Christendom, the realms of the Mongols were a source of magic. Europeans clung to rumors and whispers about the ingenuity of the Mongols, hoping for allies at a time when the Crusader kingdoms of the Middle East were succumbing to the advances of various Turkish and Arab factions. In a letter to the papal court in 1145, a Syrian bishop wrote of the supposed presbyter John, a powerful Christian priest and king in the East, descended from the Magi, who defeated a great Muslim army in what is now Iran.

Later historians speculated that this figure in question was actually Yelü Dashi, a Central Asian warlord whose domains would later include the Mongol invasions. Generations of medieval European travelers, including Carpin and the Venetian merchant Marco Polo, went in search of the legend of the Prester John, a quest that was spurred on by the spread of Nestorian Christians—a community that had existed for centuries outside the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In Constantinople and Rome – at the courts of various prominent Asian rulers.

It is the underlying universality of that era that Francis sought to make an example of for our present moment. “In the 13th and 14th centuries, when the Mongols controlled much of Eurasia, they promoted peaceful trade along the Silk Road,” wrote Jason Horowitz of The New York Times, who was on the Vatican press corps in Ulaanbaatar. “Eager to do business, Mongolian nomads would assess the religious affiliation of caravans traversing the Mongolian steppes and then extract from their treasuries a Christian cross, a Koran, or a Buddhist statue to facilitate trade.”

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